Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • Canadians’ most asked questions about the recession, answered by economists

    Harper on Tuesday said healthy June GDP growth showed the economy was back on track. (Reuters)Harper on Tuesday said healthy June GDP growth showed the economy was back on track. (Reuters)

    If online search results are anything to go by, a lot of us are worried about Canada’s purported recession.

    Google Canada released a couple of interesting facts this week. Recession was the top trending election-related topic on Google in August, ahead of daycare, the Bill C-51 national security legislation, the Mike Duffy expenses scandal and a tax on Netflix.

    But the recession queries really came to a head recently. On September 1, the things Canadians wanted to know most were whether the country was indeed in a recession, what the heck was a technical recession, why Canada was in recession (if it was), how often the economy had experienced recessions and how they could survive such a slump.

    Top questions on recession searched by Canadians. (via Google Canada)Top questions on recession searched by Canadians. (via Google Canada)

    All good questions, really, so Yahoo Canada tapped some of Canada’s top economists to get the answers.

     

    Is Canada in a recession?

    According to economists, probably not — though some people may beg to differ.

    Recessions are a prolonged and broad-based contraction in a country’s gross domestic

    Read More »from Canadians’ most asked questions about the recession, answered by economists
  • There’s an election on, so who’s running the country?

    Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign stop in King Township, Ontario, August 20, 2015. (Reuters)Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign stop in King Township, Ontario, August 20, 2015. (Reuters)

    We take for granted that government will continue when an election campaign is underway. Public works will get done, cheques will be sent out, foreign policy matters dealt with.

    But how does that happen, exactly, when the Governor General has dissolved Parliament and the government has lost its mandate? And what’s to stop the ruling party from nudging the levers of power to make inroads with voters come polling day?

    Incumbency offers huge potential advantages. That’s why there’s something called the Caretaker Convention, which sets the rules of how governments can operate during election campaigns and after the vote before a new government is sworn in.

    The convention has existed for about as long as Canada itself but largely out of sight of the public until earlier this month when the government was pressured to post the latest version of it on the Privy Council Office’s web site on Aug. 2, the day the election was called.

    “This is the first time that a government has just voluntarily

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  • feedfive: Ont. student group finds creative solution for raising money to feed homeless

    (Photo courtesy Lydia Frey/feedfive)(Photo courtesy Lydia Frey/feedfive)

    The first thing to look at when you first see one of feedfive’s T-shirts is the fork.

    Count the tines. It’s a clever, subtle visual pun that alone is worth the $29 asking price even before you know the money is going to a good cause.

    The group of students from the University of Waterloo launched their unique piece of swag this month to support their regular gig feeding the poor and homeless at a Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., drop-in centre. One T-shirt pays for five meals prepared by the team. feedfive.

    “We wanted it to be something really cool, really simple, [that] gets your attention,” Danny Aguizi, a psychology and business grad, told Yahoo Canada.

    “We liked the fork idea because it’s really simple. Anyone knows what a fork is; you instantly get it. We added a fifth prong to it to kind of make it our own; five meals, five prongs. Most people don’t notice it. It’s kind of a small Easter egg there.”

    Danny Aguizi (left) prepares food at Ray of Hope. (Conrad Grebel University College/feedfive)Danny Aguizi (left) prepares food at Ray of Hope. (Conrad Grebel University College/feedfive)

    Offering goodies in return for charitable donations is nothing new but feedfive’s

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  • 'Stop Harper' sticker campaign has potential to make a real impact, says expert

    Stickers sold by StopHarperStickers.com (courtesy StopHarperStickers.com)Stickers sold by StopHarperStickers.com (courtesy StopHarperStickers.com)

    The message on the stickers couldn’t be clearer: Stop Harper, framed in the shape of the familiar red octagonal road sign. Or just the word Harper, designed to be slapped on a real stop sign, with the added benefit of being bilingual if you’re in Quebec.

    The Stop Harper sticker campaign has become a vandalism nuisance for several Canadian cities from coast to coast, forcing them to repair or replace defaced road signs.

    The stickers first began showing up last year, documented on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. It’s reasonable to think the lengthy federal election campaign could trigger another wave of them.

    While they might seem juvenile, one political scientist suggests they’re an interesting backlash to the slick, stage-managed political advertising we now take for granted.

    Officials in Prince Rupert, on B.C.’s northern coast, reported having to replace a half-dozen signs at more than $50 a throw. On the East Coast a spate of defacements of signs around the University of

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  • Walk-in clinics can become ‘de facto’ family doctors, to chagrin of some physicians

    (Thinkstock)(Thinkstock)

    For the vast majority of Canadians a family doctor normally is their first point of contact with the medical system but a significant percentage still rely on hospital emergency departments and walk-in medical clinics.

    The reasons why an average 15 per cent of Canadians don’t have their own doctors are complex. Some haven’t been able to latch on to someone’s practice in their community while others, especially the young and healthy, don’t feel they need one.

    For instance, Statistics Canada figures show about a third of young men aged 20 to 34 don’t have their own doctors.

    StatsCan’s latest health fact sheet shows about one in four Quebecers don’t have family doctors, compared with 7.5  per cent of Ontarians and six per cent of New Brunswickers. The ratio is worst in the territories topped by Nunavut, where 82 per cent of residents have no primary care physician. B.C. is close to the national average.

    Many orphaned patients – and some who don’t want to wait for appointments – haunt

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  • Spouses of Canadian party leaders play key role, although very different from U.S.

    Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen Harper arrive at Rideau Hall August 2, 2015. (Reuters)Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen Harper arrive at Rideau Hall August 2, 2015. (Reuters)

    Laureen Harper’s pep talk to Conservative party workers in Toronto last week probably won’t be the last time we see the prime minister’s wife making solo appearances in the Oct. 19 election campaign.

    Working the small crowd of volunteers and lauding their willingness to sacrifice the rest of their summer because of the early election call, Harper fulfilled a couple of important roles of a political spouse: She was somewhere Stephen Harper couldn’t be (he was prepping for the first leaders’ debate), and she showed a facet that he generally doesn’t (personal warmth).

    Laureen Harper is a key asset in the Conservatives’ bid to win a fourth term in government, more so than the wives of Liberal Leader Justice Trudeau and the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair.

    Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau and the couple’s three young children were on the campaign bus this week, while Catherine Pinhas-Mulcair’s only major appearance was to stand near her husband when he responded to Harper’s Aug. 2 election call.

    A

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  • Religious accommodations on airplanes: deal with it before the airport, says expert

    (Thinkstock)(Thinkstock)

    Canadians are an accommodating people, generally, but sometimes you can just get fed up.

    That’s what happened to Christine Flynn, a Toronto chef, after she found herself the object of a game of musical chairs aboard a Porter Airlines flight from Newark, N.J., to Toronto.

    According to the Toronto Star, an ultra-Orthodox Jew who was assigned the seat beside her started asking other passengers to change with him because Flynn was a woman who was not a relative and sitting beside her went against his religious beliefs.

    What allegedly followed was an embarrassing attempt by the Porter flight attendant to find someone who would change seats with the man. Flynn told the Star it wasn’t so much that the man deigned not to sit beside her but that he and the flight attendant viewed her as the problem.

    That, in a nutshell, was the real problem, says Brent Bowen, dean of the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz. It was not a religious-accommodation issue;

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  • Newfoundland student debt solution not needed for other provinces, officials say

    N.L. students will have a little less debt to worry about, but what about the rest of Canada? (Thinkstock)N.L. students will have a little less debt to worry about, but what about the rest of Canada? (Thinkstock)

    The debt burden post-secondary students graduate with continues to grow, so a surge of hope went through leaders of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) when Newfoundland and Labrador announced it was eliminating student loans entirely in favour of non-repayable grants and bursaries.

    Federation national deputy chairperson Anne-Marie Roy called it great news for students on The Rock.

    “They have the lowest tuition fees and now a very important amount of grants that definitely will make education more affordable for students in that province,” Roy said in an interview with Yahoo Canada.

    But the federation, which represents more than 500,000 university and college students, wants more.

    While it’s unlikely other provinces will follow suit, Roy said the federation hopes they and Ottawa, which accounts for the lion’s share of student-loan funding, get N.L.’s message.

    “Budgets are actually about priorities,” she said. “So it’s about the government making it a priority to invest in

    Read More »from Newfoundland student debt solution not needed for other provinces, officials say
  • Gays scout leaders OK’d in U.S., but old news in Canada

    The City of St. John's Scouts Canada office. (CBC)The City of St. John's Scouts Canada office. (CBC)

    In a policy change that was years in the making, the Boy Scouts of America  (BSA) last week announced it would no longer bar openly gay adults from becoming scout leaders.

    Momentous as that is for scouting in the United States, it might surprise you that Scouts Canada has accepted gays and lesbians as troop leaders for almost two decades. The policy was embraced with no fanfare and apparently little controversy, perhaps a reflection of how Canada copes with social change compared with its American neighbour.

    “It was the next step that they had to logically take after their decision last year to enable gay youth members to join the organization as well,” John Petitti, Scouts Canada executive director of marketing and communications, said of the BSA’s decision.

    BSA president Robert Gates, the former U.S. defence secretary, took a bold approach in shepherding through the change, “in order to continue to sustain the organization’s relevance and growth within today’s society,” Petitti told

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  • Will a class-action suit put the brakes on Uber?

    Taxi drivers protest against Uber in Sacramento, California, June 25, 2014. REUTERS/Max WhittakerTaxi drivers protest against Uber in Sacramento, California, June 25, 2014. REUTERS/Max Whittaker

    There’s been an inevitability about the spread of Uber, the app-based ride-sharing service, as it’s implanted itself into more cities around the world, including major Canadian ones such as Toronto and Montreal.

    Despite its popularity with riders, Uber has met opposition almost everywhere. Taxi operators see it as unfair competition and municipal governments resent Uber thumbing its nose at attempts to regulate the service.

    But it keeps expanding. Like the Borg in TV’s ‘Star Trek,’ it seems resistance is futile.

    Which raises this question: what chance does a lawsuit filed on behalf of Ontario cabbies have of succeeding where regulators and protesting cabbies almost everywhere have failed?

    A law firm has filed a class action worth more than $400 million, alleging the tech company conspired with its UberX drivers to pick up passengers for compensation, breaching Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act.

    Section 39.1 of the provincial law bans the practice of giving rides for money without proper

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Pagination

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